Booker Book # 2: Mother's Milk by Edward St. Aubyn

Posted: August 20, 2006 in Booker Project

mothersmilk.jpg Booker Book # 2 wasn’t what I’d call a let-down, by any means. Mother’s Milk is charming, sweet and at times very, very funny. It’s told partly from the perspective of a young boy named Robert who, until his brother Thomas arrives on the scene, is the beloved only child of very involved parents. Even after Thomas’s arrival Robert has little to complain of, save the normal plight of sibling rivalry. He’s most definitely a very well cared for little boy.

In addition to Robert’s story we also go in-depth into what is actually a quite strong marriage, though it begins to flounder around the time of Thomas’s birth. Not one to be actively jealous of his children, Patrick Melrose still can’t help feeling hurt he’s pushed off to the back burner while his wife, Mary, becomes the role model for the perfect, doting mother. That he loves his family is never in doubt, but faced with a mid-life crisis it seems inevitable he decides he needs a bit more in his life, and he does begin to act on those impulses.

The frustration of Patrick, which matches the frustration of the dedicated Mary, is what fuels the rest of the novel. This is all very true-to-life, and if you’re a parent I’d be surprised if you couldn’t identify with at least some of this story.

This novel is very well-written, there’s no disputing that. But is it quite up to Booker Snuff? That’s what I question. I probably would never have read it if it hadn’t been on the Longlist (and if I weren’t a woman on a mission), and I am glad I did read it. It was enjoyable, very much so. It’s funny, at times thigh-slappingly so, and very tender, poignant, caring and all those other warm and fuzzy things. But is it SUPERB?

I’m not quite thinking so.

Unless the other novels really fail to thrill me, I think I’ll rule out Mother’s Milk from the running. There, I’ve put my money where my mouth is and said it! Black Swan Green for the Shortlist, and Mother’s Milk, while still a good read (and I do recommend it), not quite winning Booker gold.

Edward St. Aubyn, author of Mother’s Milk


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